aging is actually the period a wine spends in the bottle until someone decides to uncork it and pour it into a glass
Let’s start with the basics: maturation is the period that follows the completion of malolactic fermentation, ending at bottling. It includes the possible time a wine spends on the lees and the extra time a wine may rest in oak, while aging is actually the period a wine spends in the bottle until someone decides to uncork it and pour it into a glass. So any time a wine spends on any kind of cellar is considered as aging period.
Most consumers are usually unaware of which wines are worth aging and which are suited better for immediate consumption. Here we are, to try and make things simpler and give straightforward answers and guidelines regarding white wines and their aging potential. The actual mechanism behind white wine-aging is still a mystery for scientists apart from the obvious color-browning that gradually takes place, due to inevitable oxidation. In reality since there is no obvious backbone for aging white wines as are tannins for reds, many areas are still unexplored.
The primary question can be none other than which is the basic reason for aging? Our response is rooted in the expectation of pleasure, to get the most from it. The wine should express aromatic and structural complexity, integrating the wine’s different components (acidity, tannins, oak, extract) without drying out the palate. There are cases however that the main reason for aging is the wine’s increased value, but this is very different story for white wines in particular.
If we visualize the aging period over time, presuming that the wine is able to make this journey, because not every wine can, there will be a “moment” in its life where it will reach a peak and stay there for some time. This process may be a year, two years, or even decades. Some people talk about a plateau of maturity and the estimates wine-reviewers give are more or less nothing more than predictions according to their point of view, knowledge and experience. No one can really say with certainty when maturity will eventually culminate for a wine.
To tell you the truth, it was safer bet to predict the winner of the world cup in Brazil than to spot the exact moment at which a wine will reach its best
Nevertheless, the issue for the consumer is just timing: to open the wine and find it in good, or even better, perfect shape!
To tell you the truth, it was safer bet to predict the winner of the world cup in Brazil than to spot the exact moment at which a wine will reach its best, especially in varieties without any track-record like many Greek indigenous varieties with the exception of Assyrtiko. Which is really the point to claim that upcoming Vidiano from Crete will be better after 8 years in bottle since very few people if any, have tasted an 8 year old example?
Yet after a wine has reached its peak it does not mean that it immediately becomes undrinkable, giving no pleasure to the consumer. It just starts to lose its attractive fruitiness, acidity becomes dominant since fruit starts to fade, and eventually the wine becomes tired. Furthermore because aging is a complex almost unpredictable process, we are note sure if every single bottle will develop in the same-desired-way. Bottle variation can be a huge issue in mature wines and that is why there are no great wines, just great bottles!
Among the factors that affect aging is the winemaking process, the variety’s inherent aging potential characteristics with some grapes like Assyrtiko bearing strong ability to improve and the fruit’s density and concentration. Some times wines with residual sugars may go further in time, while high acidity can help wines last longer but not necessarily improve in bottle. Top Rhone examples may last for decades, yet they define low acidity levels.
Thereupon the basic questions that should be evaluated are, whether the wine is ready to drink and if it is going to improve or not. The combination of these two elements create the relevant ”predictions”, with some wines being ready to drink but have the potential to improve, while others may be ready to drink but will not benefit from further aging.
For Greek whites, we have already stated our strong belief that they are getting better and better and that many of them stand successfully the test of time, yet it is time to present in a more descriptive way their potential:
Assyrtiko: Drink your Santorini 6-8 years after the vintage and go even further for top-examples. Assyrtiko from mainland Greece is fruitier and the safe drinking window is up to 4 years after bottling. In the classic dilemma between stainless steel or oak we would give some extra points to the former.
Moschofilero: We were lucky enough to try a Moschofilero carrying almost 20 years of age that was quite interesting, but it is safer to enjoy these aromatic wines the first two years of their life, with some exceptions going up to 3-4.
Malagousia: Age the top example up to 6 years and drink up the more immediate styles.
Savvatiano: Even if Savvatiano 2008 from Papagiannakos Estate still amazes us with its evolution and gorgeous complexity, this is rather the exception than the rule. 1-3 years maximum for most wines.
Roditis: If from high altitude vineyards the potential is up to 5 years. In other cases enjoy the wines within the first 2 or 3 years.
Vidiano: Still unexplored but best examples show strong potential to improve between 6-10 years.